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Next week’s election

Dear Stanford students and postdocs,

I want to reach out to each of you as we approach the U.S. election that is now a week away.

As I talk with people around the Stanford community, a recurring theme I hear is the stress and anxiety that 2020 has brought us. For many, these are peaking as we approach the election.

Already this year we have grappled with the ravages of a virus; a national reckoning with anti-Black racism; a staggering economic crisis; and natural disasters that have displaced and destroyed. Amid it all, we’ve been living apart from one another. We’re connected electronically, but loneliness and isolation still have crept into our lives. Who could imagine a more difficult way of confronting our many challenges, than doing so apart from one another?

Now also comes the crescendo of the election season. It comes in a time of heightened polarization and concern about potential threats to the democratic process. The news in our feeds stokes the anxiety we’re already feeling. The political discourse we see often seems to undermine our common humanity.

For some, the weight of the moment is even heavier, as the election makes some families and communities feel especially at risk and vulnerable. This is critical for all of us to recognize, and it calls upon us to approach each other with an extra dose of humility and empathy.

Amid the many challenges of the moment, though, I am hopeful.

I’m hopeful because of what I see in our own Stanford community each and every day: I see a university that offers a place for each of us, and for all of us, wherever we come from and whatever our beliefs. I see incredible students who are pushing for our university, and our country, to always do better. I see a community passionately committed to the pursuit of truth through study and research, and eager to put knowledge to work for the benefit of the wider world. I see people who care deeply and authentically for the well-being of one another.

So, as we approach the closing days of this election, in a most challenging year, I hope you won’t mind my encouraging a few things:

  • Participate: If you are eligible and haven’t done so already, I hope you will exercise your voice and vote! I want to extend special appreciation to our students who have put together the fantastic nonpartisan resources at to help you navigate the registration and voting process. Since the beginning of the year, StanfordVotes has facilitated more than 10,600 signups on the TurboVote website, which allows individuals to register to vote and request an absentee ballot.
  • Be patient: We hope for and expect a peaceful and orderly election. As you know, it’s possible the results of the national election won’t be known on Election Night. We may be called upon to be patient, and to trust in our democratic processes.
  • Reach out for support: As the pandemic has made us appreciate more than ever, we need each other. The university has put together a website at that offers online election-oriented events you can participate in, as well as support resources that are eager to hear from you whenever you need them. I really urge you to peruse this website and find what would be useful to you.
  • Have hope! We are living through an extraordinary time that is testing us in new ways each day. But this country is strong. And all of us affiliated with Stanford have been given an extraordinary privilege – the privilege of working with amazing people to pursue knowledge and to help create the better world we aspire to see. That mission, too, is strong and enduring.

Best wishes for the days ahead, and for a successful last few weeks of the autumn quarter.

Persis Drell